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Why the recruitment industry needs to care more about diversity

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Andrew Kingsley

The past two years have been a wake-up call for everyone and challenged institutionalised discrimination, the gender pay gap, and harassment in the workplace. The #MeToo campaign has had the effect of reigniting the campaign for diversity, inclusion and equality.

According to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2018, diversity is “the biggest game-changer for businesses.”

Diversity, but not as you know it.

“Diversity, the popular phrase of the 1980s, became diversity and inclusion as the movement matured, and today has expanded to diversity, inclusion and belonging. Here’s why: diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one’s watching.”

 (LinkedIn Global Recruiting Trends 2018)

What this means is that companies need to look at bringing people together in a way that employees feel valued and respected. 

Why focus on diversity?

We need to focus on diversity because there are huge inequalities across all industries. Researchers have shown that recruiters are unwittingly using unconscious bias, gendered language for job posts, and looking for candidates in all the usual places; instead of seeking out fresh new talent from new sources. We need to focus on diversity because our workplaces are still not diverse.

Financially, researchers believe that it is also good for your bottom line - and if it’s money that is what it takes to make inclusion the norm for some, then here are the figures.

 

“In the United Kingdom, greater gender diversity on the senior-executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our dataset: for every 10% increase in gender diversity, earnings before Interest and taxes (EBIT) rose by 3.5%.” 

Why Diversity Matters, ​January 2015, McKinsey)

Strategically, it is also good for business growth and development.

“People with different backgrounds and experiences often see the same problem in different ways and come up with different solutions, increasing the odds that one of those solutions will be a hit. In a fast-changing business environment, such responsiveness leaves companies better positioned to adapt. 

(How Diverse Leadership Teams Boost Diversity, January 2018, BCG).

Diversity can help a business not only build resilience but make it adaptable - qualities that are vital in the quickly shifting sands of technological change.

Plus you can attract more talent. Research by Glassdoor found that 67% of job seekers look at an employer’s diversity and inclusion culture before applying.

How can we as recruiters help our clients with diversity?

There are a number of things we in the recruitment industry can do to help our clients find quality candidates that represent all walks of life, that can help them grow and thrive.

1. Advertise in the right places.

Work out where to advertise and chose the right social media platforms. Look for special interest groups and communities, like Women in the Law UKChicks with Bricks or the Black Solicitors Network.

2. Limit job ads to the must-have skills

This is because, according to research by Iris Bohnet a behavioural economist at Harvard University, women are only likely to apply for jobs if they are a 100% fit for the post, whereas men will apply if they are only a 60 or 70% fit.

3. Stop using gendered words in job adverts

Bohnet argues that the words we use are intrinsically gendered.

“Words such as ‘leader’, ‘assertive’, and ‘competitive’ are adjectives coded in our heads as typically male.”

Compare these to:

“...typically female [words] such as ‘co-operative’, and ‘compassionate’. Based on a limited number of studies we know women are less likely to apply when there are more male-coded words.”

(Bohnet, quoted in "Wanted: A Way with Words in Recruitment Ads" March 2017, FT.)

Researchers(1) have tested how changing the words used in job adverts can affect the numbers of men or women applying. To help check your language - there are free online tools like the Gender Decoder and Textio Hire both of which can be used to determine if you have used any gendered terminology. LinkedIn also has further tips on how to write more inclusive job adverts.

4. Try blind recruitment

In the 1980s, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) realised that its musicians were predominantly, white, male and middle class. So they decided to change the way they recruited:

“They put a screen in front of the actual people who were looking to hire people in this orchestra, so all they heard was the music that was being played–-and the decisions they made from that hiring method meant that an all-white male orchestra moved to half-female, half-male, and with a lot more diversity. They got a brilliant result in terms of the sound they wanted for their orchestra and, at the same time, the diversity, which clearly was an issue and which is how they ended up with an all-white male orchestra in the first place, was diverted.” 

("How Blind Recruitment Works And Why You Should Consider It." Fast Company 14th March 2016, Michael Grothaus)

 

Law Firm, Clifford Chance, HSBC and Deloitte are all now using similar ‘blind recruitment,’ practices. This means, removing all identifiable information, like age, name and gender and assessing purely on the skill level and experience.

5. Train in unconscious bias

Everyone has unconscious views about people, whether that is in making judgments about the shoes people wear or where they live. This is because our brains have to make shortcuts to assess the thousands of bits of information that we take in - which results in cognitive bias. This can be both negative and positive. Affinity bias, is where we naturally bond with candidates that have similar experiences to us. For example, they may have been to the same university as us or who worked up through the ranks.

 

“We tend to promote people who we feel comfortable with, and often that is people who are like us.” 

(Gina Grillo, President and CEO of the Advertising Club of New York, Forbes).

 

Or we can display a halo bias, where we project positive feelings towards people without knowing them, simply because they are well dressed or have a good handshake. Experts recommend training to help recruiters gain awareness of their bias to help overcome it. Find out more from the CIPD’s podcast on unconscious bias in interviewing.

6. Make sure job descriptions are accessible

Make sure your application forms can be used by those who are visually impaired. Avoid tables or hyperlinks which tell users to click ‘here’ or Flash. See if your text is accessible by following the steps listed in Webcredible.

 

7. Remove jargon

Overuse of jargon words can be a turn off for both young and older job seekers.

“Insider language is a quick way to make someone else feel like an outsider, but if you’re not watching out for it, acronyms and ‘company speak’ will inevitably creep into your job descriptions. When in doubt, assume the candidate doesn’t know the ins-and-outs of your company.” 

(Hannah Fleishman, quoted in  Huppert, M. (2018, April 9), “5 Must do’s for writing inclusive job adverts,” LinkedIn)

Conclusion

The recruitment industry will need to constantly and proactively asses and re-assess its strategies to attract diverse talent. In doing so, we can ensure that we can attract diverse talent, help fill the skills shortage and get a better representation of minorities in STEM jobs. 


Sources:

  1. Gaucher, D., Friesen, J., & Kay, A. C. (2011, March 7). Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0022530